Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
Peter Clark

Impatience And Frustration

Recommended Posts

I have said before on this forum that I consider myself a competant organist, capable of turning out a reasonable recital every so often and accompanying liturgies to the satisfaction of congregations and clergy alike. But am I alone in finding that I get excited discovering a new piece either by hearing it on the radio or a CD or learning of it from others (such as on this discussion board) and then buying the score and if not able to play it after two or three readings getting really disheartened? It might be my advancing age of course, but when I was studying first piano and then organ sight reading was always a strong - nay often pass-mark clinching - attribute. Not that sight reading any piece means that it can be played to recital standard of course. I suspect it is that I no longer have the discipline that was drilled into me when I was having lessons. Thoughts would be very welcome. Encouragement and suggestions even more so.

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have said before on this forum that I consider myself a competant organist, capable of turning out a reasonable recital every so often and accompanying liturgies to the satisfaction of congregations and clergy alike. But am I alone in finding that I get excited discovering a new piece either by hearing it on the radio or a CD or learning of it from others (such as on this discussion board) and then buying the score and if not able to play it after two or three readings getting really disheartened? It might be my advancing age of course, but when I was studying first piano and then organ sight reading was always a strong - nay often pass-mark clinching - attribute. Not that sight reading any piece means that it can be played to recital standard of course. I suspect it is that I no longer have the discipline that was drilled into me when I was having lessons. Thoughts would be very welcome. Encouragement and suggestions even more so.

 

Peter

 

I find I have to take great care ordering new music - the best publishers are those with examples that one can see before one pushes the 'go to checkout' button. This problem with online purchasing meant that I was spending too much on music that just joined the pile and never got played.

Last weekend I played a lunchtime recital of music most of which had been written before about 1950 - the resident organist of the church had never heard the bulk of of it! I sweated buckets getting it all up to scratch and allthough I say it myself I think that it all went well. Mercifully the audience found it enjoyable and accessible - some of it (Eric Sweeney - DOM at Waterford Cathedral and a noted Irish composer, Fredrik Sixten from Sweden - his Tango is delicious) had been aquired via contact with the composer - the rest (Charles Camilleri, Egil Hovland and Daniel Gawthrop from the USA) was already 'repertoire'. I had been worried - especially after reading somewhere about recitalists going 'popular' or 'dumming down' (no Bach etc - though I did start with the Clerambault 1st Suite) but one listener said that he did not usually like organ music but he had enjoyed what he had heard today. I too am an 'occasional' recitalist only and in order to get one up to scratch it takes quite a lot of work - discipline too but also time with job and family. The other side of this though is that I feel that now the desire to get to good final performance is there whereas when I was younger and having lessons it was fun - but a little bit of a chore!

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have said before on this forum that I consider myself a competant organist, capable of turning out a reasonable recital every so often and accompanying liturgies to the satisfaction of congregations and clergy alike. But am I alone in finding that I get excited discovering a new piece either by hearing it on the radio or a CD or learning of it from others (such as on this discussion board) and then buying the score and if not able to play it after two or three readings getting really disheartened? It might be my advancing age of course, but when I was studying first piano and then organ sight reading was always a strong - nay often pass-mark clinching - attribute. Not that sight reading any piece means that it can be played to recital standard of course. I suspect it is that I no longer have the discipline that was drilled into me when I was having lessons. Thoughts would be very welcome. Encouragement and suggestions even more so.

 

Peter

 

I'm the same - I've not learnt a new piece properly since I sat my last exam, back when I was 15. If I can pretty much get through it on a sight-read, then with a few repetitions get it pretty much ready to play, then I'll play it after chapel at school, then roll it out on a sunday morning at church. Anything that requires more work than that just doesn't get learnt - I have about 15 minutes in a good week to practise, most weeks I just don't, which is a sad state of affairs, but a fact of life when teaching and being a houseparent.

 

I find that I can get through most "English" music in this way, but a lot of the French repertoire I haven't bothered buying, sadly, because I know I will never learn it properly, and if I do buy it now when I'm not practising, then it'll get "learnt" in a completely inaccurate way, so I'd rather just not learn it at all than create a mockery of the original. The exception being Franck, generally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find an important aspect of learning a new "big" piece is in learning it very thoroughly, with lots practice and attention to every detail and then putting it away and not touching it for 2 or 3 months. When you get it out again to do more work you find you can play it better than when you last put it away and you also quickly notice even more precise detail to hone in on.

 

Malcolm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I completely agree with what Malcolm has said. It is most enlightening to come back after letting the music sink in and finding you can play it much better.

 

I haven't attacked a large-scale work for quite a while though - I'm working my way through a stack of shorter and easier pieces from the Maitres Contemperains collection, a lot of which are undiscovered gems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Learning a new piece is very hard, often discouraging work, almost impossible to do if you come home tired after a day of work doing something else!

 

I've learned to motivate myself with little things, such as setting myself a goal of fingering a new system every day, on average, until the piece is learned. I even rough out the pieces I want to learn at the beginning of each calendar year. Yes, learning can be absolutely boring at times. I also keep sessions shorter when I am discouraged and intersperse the learning with playing pieces that I've slogged through recently and now enjoy playing.

 

I've spent most of the time since the beginning of October flat on my back - no practice in that time. Interestingly, given the comments above, the trio sonata I worked so hard on for a recital earlier this year was still accurate after this extended break, and I felt I was able to concentrate better on it than when I had been belting it into my fingers and brain.

 

I was taught to prepare a piece for a performance for friends a year before it is needed, then put it to bed for nine months before bringing it back up to speed. I don't always get to follow that advice!

 

Good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I find an important aspect of learning a new "big" piece is in learning it very thoroughly, with lots practice and attention to every detail and then putting it away and not touching it for 2 or 3 months. When you get it out again to do more work you find you can play it better than when you last put it away and you also quickly notice even more precise detail to hone in on.

 

Malcolm

Agreed.

 

I find the best approach to learning new pieces is to play the correct notes slowly, five or six times. It also helps if you write in the fingering and stick to it.

 

I'm working my way through a stack of shorter and easier pieces from the Maitres Contemperains collection, a lot of which are undiscovered gems.

 

Who else will admit to snubbing the shorter, easier works in favour of learning masterpieces? :unsure:

 

 

EC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Learning a new piece is very hard, often discouraging work, almost impossible to do if you come home tired after a day of work doing something else!

I've learned to motivate myself with little things, such as setting myself a goal of fingering a new system every day, on average, until the piece is learned. I even rough out the pieces I want to learn at the beginning of each calendar year. "

 

Yes, absolutely. What also helps, I find, it to learn pieces backwards, or at least to tackle the bits you suspect are the hardest first. Then you have a pretty good idea whether it's going to fly or not. Your pencil is your best friend, notate as much as you can (especially fingering) at the initial learning stage. When time is short it saves you re-learning the next day what you'd already mastered the day before.

 

Bazuin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I had better sightreading. It's always been my weak point, preventing me from reaching the higher levels of diploma. So every piece I pick up new, I have to learn; slowly, so that, even at the first reading, you make no mistakes, and insert fingering from day 1. You never practise beyond a speed, combined with a level of complexity of process that ensures no mistakes. I remember reading somewhere that the human brain learns everything only once. Beyond that initial stage, everything is a change. Learning once is a much quicker process than re-learning, so I aim to get it right, however tedious and laborious, at the first attempt. Because of the pressure to turn out music, I have never had much chance to practise the sightreading to improve it.

 

Amazing thing is though, that I can pick up a piece I've not seen in 10 years, and within a couple of sessions of about an hour, it back up to performance standard, so after playing for 25 years, you end up with a big and accessible repertoire. Doesn't stop you from hankering after a new piece to add to it though.

 

AJS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am like one of those impulsive gluttons, who cannot pass a cream-cake without at least scraping a smidgen of cream off and tasting it.

 

I hear pieces of music, and say to myself, "That sounds good, I must get it and learn it."

 

I then get the work, open it carefully, cringe at the bill and put it in pride of place on the battered electronic. It is at this point that the relationship between music and would-be performer changes, for the simple reason that I try to sight-read it and immediately understand the enormity of the task ahead.

 

Like the glutton, passion and desire turn immediately into a sense of failure, inadequacy and deep despondency, from which there is no escape. Trapped in this isolated world for days, weeks...nay...months, I eventually get angry with myself, the music and most of the known world. It is a sort of inverted self-loathing, but I find that anger brings relief. Pills would not be enough.

 

I go around muttering to myself, "I will not be beaten by a few dots of ink on a piece of paper." (For Max Reger read, "A few dots of white on a black backrgound")

 

Sometimes I growl menacingly at the music, which still sits there all pristine and unblemished, demanding more attention than a penniless strumpet.

 

Paranoid delusion eventually surfaces, and like "Jack the Ripper," I attack without warning; wrenching open the outer cover, stabbing senselessly at the keys and vowing to avenge the suffering of all musicians. (The last time I did this, the new kitten fled the scene and hid in a box under the stairs!)

 

Manic is the only way to describe the learning process. The more I dissect, the more I try this or that particular fingering and pedalling, the worse it gets......great outbursts of rage and poison vitriol hurled in all directions. I call the composer, the publisher, the distributors and even the staff of the music shop, all the names under the sun. After a month, the music is full of black pencil marks, (except Reger, which is either marked in white or a special ink comprising Tippex, clotted blood, sweat and tears). At three months, some of the more offensive reminders and cues have been erased, and I begin to see at least a smidgen of musical value in the composition. At six months, I get bored, abandon all hope and throw the now mangled and mutilated music on a pile of similar wreckage. After a while....about the same length of time as an Elephant's pregnancy......I dig out the offending copy, with the intention of starting the torture all over again.

 

Lo and behold, I find that I have calmed down, the notes seem to be less difficult. God is in his heaven and all's right in the distorted world of music-making.

 

"Maybe this really is worth the effort. Rather good writing! What a fantastic work!"

 

A little while later, and everything seems worthwhile, and for a very brief moment I am happy and content, but I know it cannot last.

 

A little while later, a stiff envelope drops through the door. I carefully unravel the contents within and place it on the organ. The kitten, (now a fully growncat), slopes off to see if the box is still where it was last time.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had to start learning new stuff after a gap of 30+ years because my church told me I was giving a recital. :blink:

And I couldn't charge admission for music they heard on a Sunday.

 

I found that marking up fingering is essential, because that is the only way to use the same fingering each time while learning, and if there is inaccurate repetition, the learning is ineffective.

But I only mark sparingly, in pencil. So I can erase incorrect/redundant markings, and if it's there, it's worth taking note of.

My teacher used to mark up in pencil, then pencil with a ring round it, then red ballpoint, then ringed red, then, horror, blue. This meant that there was just too much to read as the music was performed and I'm sure was counterproductive.

 

And 4-6 weeks to work on anything involving counterpoint is insufficient for me. Learning to a reasonable standard, then returning to it after a gap is a good technique.

 

Nice to see MM on the Board again!! :P Welcome back!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a very valid point to make. I find that if you write in too much fingering &c., (especially with a soft-lead pencil) it can be counter-productive. A sensible compromise is what is needed and this will be slightly different for each individual.

 

Malcolm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nice to see MM on the Board again!! :P Welcome back!

 

 

Thank you to all for their kindness.

 

I'm operating on a very iffy dongle at the moment, which is the computer equivalent to tubular-pneumatic action, but things will no doubt get better in the new year. I think I shall get one of those old BBC intermission pictures, saying, "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible."

 

At least I am alive!

 

:blink:

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is a very valid point to make. I find that if you write in too much fingering &c., (especially with a soft-lead pencil) it can be counter-productive. A sensible compromise is what is needed and this will be slightly different for each individual.

 

Malcolm

 

Always fingering each passage in the same way is crucial, and I write in as much as I need when learning a new piece. For modern pieces this can be every note, for more obvious passagework just the occasional 1 or 4 where hand positions change. Once the notes are 'under the fingers', unnecessary markings can be erased - just leaving enough to resurrect the identical fingering used when coming back to a piece after six months!

 

The rubber is a wonderful thing...I was taught never to deface music with ink, and still react with horror when I come across it. Multicolour doesn't bear thinking about!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was taught never to deface music with ink, and still react with horror when I come across it. Multicolour doesn't bear thinking about!

This is one of the reasons why I photocopy my own scores and learn and play from the photocopy. As my eyesight is no longer up to reading figured bass from miniature scores, I find reading fingering written in ink easier than when it is pencilled. I can't bring myself to write with ink in my originals...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...